In the afternoon of May 19, graduate students of the Brandeis Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis International Business School and Rabb School of Continuing Studies gathered in the Gosman Sports and Convocation Center, where they celebrated the university’s 73rd commencement exercises. Giving the Graduate Student Address was Peter Thabet, a graduate of the International Business School, earning a masters in business administration. 

“The bigger the risk, the bigger the return.” This was one of three lessons Thabet shared from his time at Brandeis. His Brandeis career began in August of 2022, where he embraced the unknowns of moving to a new country from the Middle East. 

“I started questioning my ability to succeed, and a voice whispered ‘You cannot do it,’” Thabet recalls in his commencement address. This instance of hesitation came during his first investment class, FIN 201A. Thabet regaled to his graduating class a particular moment where his professor used the statistical term “Sigma,” leaving him pondering the term as English is not his first language. Determined to understand, Thabet wrote the term down on a piece of paper and passed it along to his classmates, hoping for an answer. “Standard deviation” Thabet recalls being written back. “I felt so small at that,” he remarked, reminiscing on feeling overwhelmed by the gap between his knowledge and what was expected of him. 

However, that same professor also spoke on the concept of risk and reward, a concept Thabet viewed as applicable beyond the classroom walls. “The risk each one of us pays by venturing into a new journey, a new career, and for many of us here, a whole new country is a huge risk,” Thabet shared. “Yet the rewards are far beyond the initial investment. The doors of opportunities are wide open to those willing to challenge themselves.” 

The second lesson Thabet passed down to the 2024 graduating class was the importance of unity. Thabet draws from when Prof. Ben Gomes-Casseres (IBS) taught “BUS 262a Alliance, Acquisition, and Divestment Strategy.” One plus one equals one, Thabet began the second lesson. “To build the right culture among different groups of people, unity is key,” Thabet said. “I have witnessed this every day at Brandeis.” 

Drawing on a personal anecdote, Thabet shared that during his second semester, he received news of his mother’s cancer diagnosis. “My mom was diagnosed with cancer, shocking her, me and the entire family,” he shared. “And throughout the diagnosis, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and her final recovery, I was showered by love and care.” Thabet continued saying that he had received many emails from professors, friends and classmates, leaving him speechless. He thanked them for their support. 

Thabet’s second lesson also reflected the Oct. seventh Israel-Hamas conflict. “As someone born and raised in the Middle East and a proud ‘Brandeisan,’ last year was not easy.” Thabet shared that he has friends on both sides of the conflict and when reflecting on it, says that it was when “our diverse Brandeis community, face[d] the challenge … I saw how unity is the key, and I learned that while diversity is a state of being, on the other hand, inclusivity requires active efforts.” 

Before concluding his address, Thabet shared one last lesson. “In accounting,” he began, “expenses are recognized when they are used, regardless of when the payments were made.” To explain the concept, Thabet elaborated saying “paying for the fancy gym is one thing, probably an impulsive purchase, but actually going and moving my body is something entirely different.” He urged the Class of 2024 to “recognize this investment that has been made in us, an investment we crowned today with our beautiful caps and gowns. Let us all commit to turning this investment into tangible developments, wherever we go.” 

Thabet concludes his address expressing his gratitude and honor to stand before his class, and sharing the hope that he has in the future and “endless possibilities” for the graduating class that he describes as being rooted in the “values we cherish here at Brandeis.”